Should kids lift weights?
Well not by themselves. I think we can go ahead and say that’s a bad idea. Even at 12 I was still going for that last repetition and finding myself in situations like THIS. Not a good time.
But don’t you remember years ago that everyone thought you’d be a midget if you so much as looked at a barbell before puberty? Is it true?
Like many cultural beliefs, it’s a silly idea based on next to nothing. From what I understand, some kids working in grueling sweat shop conditions were found to be shorter than average, so that means lifting weights damages growth plates? Funny. Actually, I’m pretty sure burning calories for 10 hours at a time prevents proper growth due to the inability to achieve a caloric surplus during the developmental period. See gymnasts.
I began rethinking this kind of thing a couple of years ago. It was a culmination of things really. One thing that got me started was that my girlfriend’s daughter was out hiking with us and dragging ass and being whiny. I approached the situation by talking about how hiking up big hills made for stronger legs. I touched her leg as she walked and then jerked my hand back as if I were in excruciating pain.
Drag assery gone, and lots of smiles and giggles in its place and demands to repeat this absurd act, which was nice at the time. Unfortunately for the last two years, every time Emily does something that could be perceived as productive, she demands that I touch whatever body part has been used and then wince in pain and beg her to stop before she inflicts further harm. This includes spelling flash cards and the deadly cranium of hers that ensues after a thick stack. Damn homeschool evaluation coming up soon. We gotta pretend like we’ve been studying something other than Flash Gordon for the past 11 months.
Anyway, it got me thinking that the kid sure likes being strong. It might be fun to have this kid go all beast mode. And then I found the Stroe brothers. Dear Lord…
Believe me. That video ain’t nothin’. Go dig up some more and you’ll see stuff you never in your wildest dreams thought possible.
With those two things already seeding my subconscious mind, I really felt it was time to explore it a little further when Emily attempted her first situp and failed. Seriously. Kid couldn’t do one situp, one pushup, or one pullup. I’m no fitness fanatic or anything, but that just seemed inexcusable. And so we began.
And I must say, after being fairly regular with some kiddie strength training since this spring, I’m in shock. There are a lot of complaints about how today’s kids are not physically fit and can no longer pass the basic physical education tests from the old days. There’s really no excuse for this. Kids can go from sacks of jelly to abnormally strong with an absurdly small amount of work and at lightning speed.
Emily does a strength-specific workout about once every 10 days. It lasts less than 10 minutes and includes 1 set of just a few basic exercises: deadlifts, pushups, squats, situps, pulldowns, and shoulder presses–in that order–with little rest in between exercises.
Yeah it’s tough. Yeah I get all Bela Karolyi on her ass for 10 minutes a few times a month. But the results are just phenomenal. Every workout the progress is almost hard to believe compared to the last. Just in the last 8-10 workouts she’s gone from truly executing her first perfect pushup to now ripping through 15. Her inability to do one situp has morphed into 25 with ease with fingertips at her temples and elbows wide.
Next week she’ll be doing pulldowns with 70 pounds, as 60 was far too easy this week. Deadlifts with 85 pounds (up about 30 pounds). The kid is 8 years old. It’s nuts. Six months ago we were play fighting all the time, and I’m having to make her quit doing it completely, as she punches like a damn sledgehammer now. No really. It hurts.
If you have kids, access to a little basic equipment, and are comfortable helping them perform some strength training with good form, I think you should go for it. To me this seems like the physical equivalent of trying to teach your kid a 2nd language at age 3 when they soak that up like a sponge. Kids have a remarkable ability to gain strength, and gain it with minimal increases in actual muscle mass.
They are also less likely to get injured with their little rubber bodies, and that strong foundation built will be with them for life. I noticed this long ago when my former-gymnast ex-girlfriend bested some dudes in a handstand competition. These guys worked out all the time and she maybe did yoga once a week. She popped up on her hands and lasted two and half minutes while the two jacked dudes she went up against were collapsed on the ground beside her. Nothing beats that early developmental stuff.
What’s cool is that it doesn’t take 2 hours of grueling exercise daily to gain strength. It doesn’t take expensive gymnastics class and commuting all over town after work to drop junior off. 5-10 minutes once a week is all it takes to go from abnormally weak to abnormally strong in six months for a young kid if you do it in a productive, progress-oriented way. I’m bummed I didn’t have better guidance in my youth, as I just aimlessly followed those 3 sets of 10 regimens that never really got me significant strength increases.
Anyway, I’ll certainly be reporting where Emily is by age 10 and beyond, as I monitor her progress from week to week. She will truly be able to back up the “My kid beat up your honor student” bumper sticker claim. As an eternal foe of all things scholastic, this makes me happy.
If you are interested in how strength training might affect your child, real investigation into the matter from a health point-of-view has revealed nothing but benefits. Snoop around some if you have any doubts. Here’s a good introduction to the conversation HERE.